– Photo credit: ‘Theodoranian’, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
This exchange came about in response to comments underneath my National Catholic Register article, “History of the False Ideas Leading to Same-Sex ‘Marriage'” (11-2-16). Mark is a lawyer (actually a former one and currently a PhD student). I love tangling with legal minds, so that makes it all the more fun. But I think I demonstrate below that even great legal minds somehow miss the most crucial details in opposing views, and hence argue fallaciously or irrelevantly. Mark’s words will be in blue.
I highly doubt the National Catholic Register will publish my comment so I decided to send it to you personally.
It is obvious that NCR allows free speech and dissent against expressed opinions, isn’t it? One of the respondents wrote personally to me, in fears that his comment wouldn’t be printed here. It was.
I am at least one of the commentators who emailed you personally (perhaps there are others, I do not know). And yes I did assume that the NCR would not post my comment. I applaud the fact that they did so. They deserve credit for allowing a discussion and I should not have assumed that they would shrink from it.
I appreciate your fair-mindedness.
If someone actually interacts with the arguments I have made (rather than phantom ones that I have not made here), I’ll be happy to interact with that. This is my standard policy on my blog, Facebook page, etc. I have neither time nor desire to contend about everything under the sun. I make specific arguments and am committed to defending those against scrutiny, not to wrangling about straw men and caricatures of caricatures and stereotypes that were never my arguments in the first place.
Marriage has never been solely about pro-creation. We have always allowed elderly couples to marry. We have always allowed the infertile to marry. Not once have we ever revoked a marriage because a couple decided not to procreate. Not once have we even bothered to ask an engaged couple if they intended to procreate. You can repeat this line as much as you like but repetition will not make it true.
To clarify one thing that has been brought up which is at least somewhat related to my argument: There is nothing in Catholic teaching which forbids sex at times when it is determined that the woman is infertile, or in the case of a post-menopausal woman, or one who cannot bear children at all, or a sterile man. That’s fine, because it doesn’t involve a deliberate decision to ignore fertility and frustrate its natural course.
Sex during pregnancy or post-menopause is fine, because no one is deliberately trying to avoid conception. That has been taken out of the equation by God’s will for the ending of the reproductive capacity in the post-menopausal woman and the inability of a pregnant woman to conceive during that time.
Being open to life means there is no contralife will, wherein the evil lies. The Church has never opposed sex during menstruation or other infertile times in the woman’s cycle (Natural Family Planning incorporates all those things), or between a man and a woman who is infertile, or between a man with an inadequate sperm count and a woman, or for older couples (i.e., post-menopausal women). These situations do not involve the deliberate artificial suppression of what might or could happen, because fertility is rendered impossible or highly unlikely due to reasons other than the couple’s deliberate acts of artificial prevention. We hold that one must be open to life in the sexual act, or else abstain if the woman is fertile and a child is not desired at that particular time.
This claim has been shot down in dozens of courts.
Mine was not essentially a legal argument, though it touched upon legal decisions such as Griswold and of course Roe v. Wade. So this is a non sequitur in terms of my argument, which was exactly what the title conveyed.
Your claim that homosexuality leads to bad health outcomes has been roundly debunked, but even if we accepted your claim: so what?
Really? Here is a list of some of the diseases found frequently and disproportionately among male homosexual practitioners:
Herpes simplex virus
Human immunodeficiency virus
Human papilloma virus
Viral hepatitis types B & C
retained foreign bodies
Anne Rompalo, “Sexually Transmitted Causes of Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Homosexual Men,” Medical Clinics of North America, 74(6): 1633-1645 (November 1990)
“Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Infections” (Remedy’s Health.com Communities) [7-31-01]
“Anal Health” (Remedy’s Health.com Communities) [7-31-01]
“Anal Sex,” Dr. David Delvin / NetDoctor (11-25-13)
See much more related medical data about increased health risks entailed in homosexual sex, in one of my many past papers on the general topic. As for your “so what?” reply, it’s loving to inform people of behaviors that may subject them to serious health risks, not loving to pretend that they aren’t there, and to refuse to inform people of what they are entitled to know.
Yet invariably, folks are blasted for mentioning these factors. So be it. I don’t stop being loving stop telling the truth because I get called names and am despised for it.
Soldiers and coal miners also fare worse than the average individual. Do we deny them the right to marry? Children raised by the poor fare worse than those raised by the rich. Do we deny them the right to marry? Would you ever even consider such an argument – so why do you consider it when homosexuals are involved? I think I know the answer.
Non sequiturs all. As I said, I’m not arguing about rights in this immediate context. I’m simply recounting the evolution of the ideas leading to “gay marriage”: from a Catholic perspective. I understand many don’t agree. That doesn’t change Catholic teaching and certain indisputable facts as to how the current cultural-legal situation came about. The essential element of the discussion is, of course, the definition of marriage. Until just last year, that meant a legal (and for Catholics, also sacramental and mystical, as well as physical) union between a man and a woman. So, call me a bigot or whatever you like, for holding what US law maintained its entire history until last year; for holding what even President Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton held till just a short time ago (or were they lying and being insincere, as so often?), and for holding to Catholic teaching.
I believe the Catholic Church has always required the ability to procreate for marriage to be allowed (though they routinely look the other way with elderly couples and the like). At least that’s what the Jesuits taught me.
They require the willingness to be open to children and to not contracept, if fertility is present. But if a couple is involuntarily infertile, that is no impediment to marriage. Thus, for example, the Church has no objection to two 80-year-olds marrying (say if both are widowed). It doesn’t object to the marriage of a man or woman who (after marriage) become infertile due to disease, etc.
The idea that any God would give a damn how two consenting adults express love towards one another, when that expression doesn’t harm a solitary soul, should be absurd on its face.
First of all, it does at least potentially harm people: both those who engage in the forbidden activities, and possibly others, due to the health risks, some of which are contagious. Secondly, of course if there is a God Who created sex, then it is altogether to be expected that He will have something to say about what proper / natural and improper / unnatural sex is. That gets into natural law and the very nature of things. What’s ridiculous is the notion that (granting God’s existence), God couldn’t care less about how human beings behave, He cares very deeply, which is why He gave us rules for conduct, for our own good and fulfillment.
If I actually thought that God was obsessed over consensual love, and determined to torture human beings eternally for expressing it,
People choose to reject God in their own free will, and that is why they end up in hell, not because God is supposedly some Divine Sadist. Do you really think I’d be stupid enough to get sidetracked in a discussion about hell? I only give it these three sentences in passing.
then I sure as hell wouldn’t worship that God. A God like that would be an immoral monster by any definition. You might as well tell me that God will torture people eternally for liking basketball because he likes baseball. It makes equal sense.
Basketball doesn’t violate natural law. A denial that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman, and a denial of procreation as the most important essence of that union is a denial of natural law. You would agree (I assume) that rape or pedophilia are wrong and/or violate the natural order. We simply believe that of more acts than you do, and we have many reasons for why we believe so.
As for your comment that you would engage non-straw-man arguments, I don’t know if you were referring to my arguments specifically –
Some of them, as I have noted above. Virtually none of the comments I have seen, have directly dealt with my particular argument. It’s mostly boilerplate pro-homosexual polemics, that I have seen a million times, and know backwards and forwards by now.
but I do note that you have seemingly not responded to any critiques of your argument.
Precisely because I have seen almost none . . .
My concern, however, is with my critiques.
I claim you have argued that the ability to procreate is “primary and essential” to the institution of marriage. If you consider that a straw-man please explain how I have miss-characterized your claim.
I didn’t argue it here; I assumed it (“The primary, essential purpose of marriage is procreation: producing of children as the fruit of the sexual oneness of a married couple.”). I have argued and defended it many times, elsewhere. This particular piece was written in a Catholic magazine primarily to Catholics. When one is targeting a specific audience (by and large), they need not defend and detail every commonly held premise. And so I did not. And I also had just 1000 words to make my fairly complex and multifaceted historical argument.
I responded that the legal conception of marriage has never considered the ability to procreate to be primary or essential because that ability has never been required for marriage at any point in our nation’s history, either at the licensing phase or thereafter:
And that was perfectly irrelevant to my argument, which was not primarily a legal one, but an analysis of how false ideas evolve, from a Catholic and broadly “traditional marriage” perspective. Legally, I agree, but if we talk in terms of culture, it was understood and assumed that the married couple would produce children. No one had to argue that. In the past, the average number of children was considerably higher than it is now. My father had five siblings. My mother-in-law had four. My wife has five. I had two. Now the average children per couple is about 1.8 or so. My wife and I (believing in the goodness of procreation and Catholic teaching) have four children, and would have had more, but for miscarriages and other health problems, and a low income.
If you are referring to your particular, religious conception of marriage, as I said previously I do not care.
Yeah, I know, but this page is about my argument, not yours. I’m talking about a Catholic conception of the history of ideas concerning marriage, and you only care about the legal history, which is an entirely distinct topic. This is totally to be expected: you being a lawyer, and me being a Catholic apologist. But the topic remains mine, not yours. I defend my arguments. I don’t follow every rabbit trail just because someone wants to do that. In another time and place, fine, but here the topic is what the title of my paper says it is.
This debate concerns the legal institution of marriage.
That’s your concern, not mine in this paper, except for tangentially (because law necessarily reflects — as well as influences — the surrounding culture). My argument here is not, “why same-sex unions should not be legal” but rather, “how same-sex unions came about.” It’s an historical survey, and throughout I assume many Catholic views, rather than contending for them at every turn.
You can have whatever religious conception of marriage you like. My claim is that the ability to procreate has never been considered primary or essential to the legal institution of marriage.
I don’t dispute that, if we mean solely a civil legal perspective. It has nothing to do with my article.
Your argument – as it applies to the legal institution of marriage -is not new. As I noted it has been offered to, and rejected by, dozens of courts. It has been rejected because it is demonstrably false.
You just can’t get away from law . . . I think if you try hard enough, you really can walk and chew gum at the same time. I think you have it in ya.
. . . I do not believe that there was ever a point in our nation’s history where the majority of the population would look at a childless couple and claim: they are not truly married. I do not believe there has ever been a point in our nation’s history where the majority of the population would point to the marriage of an elderly couple and say: they are not truly married. Nor do I believe that there has ever been a time in our nation’s history when a married couple has announced their intent to not have children and the majority thus concluded: they are not truly married.
In the past, it was understood that married couples should have children; that this was fundamental to it. One rarely found a (fertile) couple who expressly decided not to have children. Now it’s common. My brother did this, and two of my wife’s brothers have also. And that is because up till the 60s our society was a more or less Christian culture, and contraception was regarded in those circles as gravely sinful. That was true of Protestants, Orthodox, and Catholics alike. The first time in history any Christian body accepted contraception as permissible (and only in hard cases) was the Anglicans in 1930. That very fact, when I was informed of it, was a bombshell to me, and was the first area where I changed my mind, in my conversion from evangelical Protestant to Catholic, in 1990.
As time has gone on, Protestants have largely accepted contraception and a certain anti-child mentality, leading to most of their major denominations being in favor of legal abortion. Thus, today, Catholics alone fully preserve the older outlook as regards marriage and children (procreation), and this is why you think my view is strange and a cultural backwater: thoroughly antiquated and non-mainstream. In our secular culture of today you are, of course, correct. As I already noted, elderly couples, etc., do not pose any contradiction to Catholic teaching. The fact that you think it would only shows that you are unfamiliar with our actual teachings on the life issues and procreation.
Your argument, frankly, is awash in logical fallacies and falsehoods.
That’s funny; this is what I think of yours: at least in part.
It fails to understand constitutional jurisprudence in ways that I can’t even begin to catalog (and yes, I am a lawyer).
I wasn’t dealing with constitutional jurisprudence. I only mentioned some of the legal highlights on our way to legal abortion and same-sex “marriage.” That’s your area. Mine is Catholic apologetics and the history of ideas (which I happen to love as an area of study).
It also seethes with the tendency to treat homosexuals differently than any other group. There is a reason that 64 of 65 courts that have considered the matter within the last 40 years have found no legal reason to deny homosexuals the right to marry (and the solitary exception, the precursor to Obergefell, did not find merit to the anti-SSM marriage arguments; it merely stated that it was bound by precedent).
The Supreme Court certainly wasn’t thinking this way in Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986, when it upheld anti-sodomy laws. That’s 30 years ago, not 40. But we would fully expect the Christian notion of marriage to be progressively broken down over time, because secularism is at war with most tenets of Christianity and many tents of traditional morality.
This is not a fight you are going to win. I think you know that.
Legally, no, but in terms of what is true and right, one “wins” by proclaiming it.
But your loss is not a valiant defeat in the pursuit of the good fight. It is a failed attempt to solidify bigotry and injustice.
Right; I’m a hateful troglodyte bigot. I expected more from you. But it really doesn’t surprise me, because this is so common, and indeed I predicted it in my paper: “Today, no one can disagree with what anyone else does without being accused of being “hateful” and “intolerant.” To disagree is to be a bigot and a bad person. That is the fruit of moral relativism.” You have now made civil, constructive dialogue impossible. But I’ll answer what you have stated so far. Then we’re through, because I refuse to continue on with someone who is convinced I am a bigot and hateful person.
I am not likely to reconsider Catholicism. I’ve been a Catholic for 26 years and I only become more and more convinced of its truthfulness across the board, as I defend its doctrines.
I’m probably going to far afield here but this post also resuscitates what I like to call the “solitary purpose” fallacy. It essentially rests on the notion that sexuality has one purpose, procreation, and no other.
That’s news to me. You seem to have some difficulty reading (and/or comprehending views not your own. I made it clear enough in my article (2nd paragraph): “That’s not to deny the unitive/pleasurable function of marriage, but it [procreation] is the most important purpose.”
This simply makes no sense. Things can have more than one purpose. My mouth has the purpose of both breathing and eating. Likewise sexuality can have the purpose of procreation and pleasure. Catholic theology, from Aquinas to George, has never squared this circle.
We agree totally. That’s why Pope Paul VI in his famous 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which reiterated the Catholic prohibition of contraception, talked about the unitive and procreative purposes of marriage. Every time a man has sex with a pregnant or menstruating, or otherwise non-fertile, or post-menopausal woman, the primary purpose is unitive and pleasure.
It could also rest on the related argument, the primary purpose argument. It goes like this, the PRIMARY purpose of sexuality is procreation -thus using it for pleasure alone is wrong. This also makes no sense.
At least here you present actual Catholic teaching, rather than a straw man distortion of it. Congratulations!
The mere fact that one uses something for a function outside of its primary purpose does not make it wrong. The primary purpose of my hands is most certainly not to walk upon them. And yet no one here would declare it “morally wrong” for me to walk upon my hands. This is what the author is arguing here. He asserts that the primary purpose of sexuality is procreation and thus using it for pleasure alone is wrong.
There are various arguments that can be made, and I have made many of them. One analogy I like to use is to eating. Eating has two components: health, and the pleasure of the taste buds and flavor. Most would readily agree that the primary purpose of food is nutritional. But they also acknowledge that the pleasure of taste is also a key component, if not the most deeply essential one.
Now, let’s examine for a moment how people regard eating; how they casually think about it, without thinking too much about it. How do we regard folks who deliberately separate the two functions? How do we regard a guy who only eats terrible-tasting food, like bark or something, and avoids good taste altogether? Well, we think he is very eccentric, and, um, unnatural. Conversely, what do we think of the person who eats only for pleasure: the junk food junkie? We think he or she is very weird, too, and doesn’t “get” it. That’s one example of two things relating to one activity that we assume without thinking ought to go together and not be separated.
It doesn’t mean that we never have a banana split. It means that we know that a human being does not properly only eat banana splits and Butterfinger candy bars and cotton candy at every meal.
That does not logically follow no matter how you slice it. You have to establish WHY using sex for pleasure is wrong.
That’s a long discussion (about why sex for pleasure to the exclusion of procreation, and with a contralife will is wrong), and most in today’s culture cannot grasp it: at least not at first exposure to traditional natural law moral reasoning. Pope Paul VI told us in Humanae Vitae (read it!) what would happen if society went down this path, and almost all of it has come to pass. The bad fruit indicates that the thing itself is bad and evil. I’ve debated and dialogued about contraception many times through the years (asterisked papers mean that they are from Internet Archive and take a minute or two to load):
Contraception: Early Church Teaching (William Klimon)  *
Dialogue on Contraception  *
Dialogue on Contraception & Natural Family Planning (NFP) (vs. Grubb) [5-16-06] *
Secular Social Science Vindicates Catholic Moral Teaching / Important Evangelical Protestants Rethinking Contraception (W. Bradford Wilcox) [12-12-06] *
Discussion Thread About NFP, Contraception, and Marriage [Facebook, 8-3-11]
NFP and “Contraceptive Intent” [Facebook, 8-28-13]
Why for instance, is masturbation morally wrong? Merely stating that masturbation is not the primary purpose of the parts involved does not cut it.
I’ve dealt with that also, but not nearly as much as contraception and abortion:
Debate on Masturbation (vs. Steve Hays) [1-6-07]
You’re a self-described apologist. Maybe you can take a stab.
As you can see, I have. Many hundreds of people have informed me that my writings played a role in their becoming Catholics, so I have been fairly successful at what I do, too. I’ve defended the Catholic faith, and have persuaded (by God’s grace and with the necessary primary influence of the Holy Spirit) those people to become Catholics.
If you want to see how I argue about homosexuality, I have plenty of those interactions, too, listed on my Sexuality and Gender web page. Thus, I’m the last person you can sensibly protest against for not having explained and defended my positions (at the greatest length). You know from my sidebar blurb that I am a Catholic apologist. This is what I have been doing for the last 35 years. I have 49 published books and 2000+ papers online (counting the older Internet Archive ones).
Ok. First of all, I really don’t give a damn about your theology. Your theology is your own and you’re entitled to it (I would strongly defend your right to it as well). If you want to claim that your article was not attacking the LEGAL recognition of same sex marriage then fine. As I said in my response I am only concerned with the legal institution of marriage. I think I made that clear. Though we should be honest with one another, I strongly suspect that you oppose the legal recognition of same sex marriage as well. Am I wrong?
No. That’s quite obviously presupposed throughout my entire article. I deny that it is “marriage” at all, which is why I refuse to give it the title, and always put it in quotation marks if the word “marriage” is in the description. Quite obviously, then, I can hardly favor legal same-sex “marriage” if I deny that it is marriage at all.
I was merely noting (in reply to your constant “legal-only” emphases) that my approach in the article was not a legal approach (only tangentially at best), but rather the history of ideas, which is much more philosophy and ethics (with theological underlying assumptions) than law.
See ya. You say I’m not a bigot, yet you say I defend beliefs that you find bigoted. Isn’t that what we call a distinction without a difference? I simply say that we have an honest disagreement. Why isn’t that sufficient anymore? Why must the bigot card be played every time? But in any event, we’re done because of that. I don’t put up with it.
You’re not even following my arguments, and seem to be increasingly exasperated. I don’t expect anyone to understand Catholic reasoning anymore (especially in the realm of procreation), because they have had so little exposure to it. You abundantly show that here.
Lastly (it just occurred to me right now), as you kept commenting, you increasingly challenged me to explain my views in more depth: to — in effect — be an apologist and argue like one. You wrote: “You have to establish WHY using sex for pleasure is wrong.” And: “Why for instance, is masturbation morally wrong? . . . You’re a self-described apologist. Maybe you can take a stab.” So I did that, which necessarily involves theology, because that forms much of the basis for my objection (along with more secular or “theologically neutral” arguments such as health risks and analogies such as the one to eating).
Then you come back with, “I really don’t give a damn about your theology.” Okay! That’s clear! But then, why ask me about it? You can figure that out. I can’t . . . In any event, I’ve always found thoroughgoing secularism to be self-defeating and ultimately incoherent upon any scrutiny, so it doesn’t surprise me that your analysis would suffer from the usual deficiencies of that worldview.
Meta Description: Debate on various aspects of “gay marriage” with a secularist lawyer.
Meta Keywords: Gay marriage, homosexuality, lesbianism, LGBT, Marriage, same-sex marriage, same-sex unions